Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Totem Pole project

(click on images for a larger view)

Our 3D Art class just finished this totem pole project; we installed the poles yesterday after school. The installation was completed in about two hours. The posts are about eight feet high, with a little over two feet in the ground, encased in cement. I supervised and pitched in, but the kids did most of the work.

I would like to say that I came up with this idea by myself, but credit must go to art teacher extraordinaire Ken Vieth. The project came from his excellent book From Ordinary to Extraordinary. He has another book called Engaging the Adolescent Mind, which I also recommend>

I had the opportunity to take a seminar with Ken a couple weeks ago; it was kind of a coincidence that we were actually working on this project at the time of the seminar. By the way, Ken's seminar was really good-- if you are an art teacher and have an opportunity to take his seminar, go for it-- I highly recommend it.

The class really enjoyed this project-- many of them were using power tools for the first time, so this was a great learning experience for them not just in terms of creativity, but also for learning a number of new skills. The totems were cut out with jigsaws, primed and painted with exterior latex, and attached to the posts with wood glue, clamps, and screws. The screws were counter-sunk and covered with wood fill, and then touched up with paint.

As per Ken's recommendation in the book, I had the students collectively decide on a color scheme. I told them they could use two colors, plus black and white. Somewhat surprisingly, there was no arguing about the colors; the discussion was very orderly and most everyone seemed happy with the colors that were selected.

As you can see, the totem poles are situated alongside our school, close to the sidewalk and street. As we were doing the installation, several people drove by and stopped to take a closer look-- we got several compliments!

Here are a few closeups of some of the individual totems. They are "relief sculptures", and the students were required to add at least one additional layer of pieces to the base sheet of plywood.

This was a really fun project-- maybe someday we will have totem poles all around the school!